DEFINING GOSPEL by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: Let’s say if you came out of church today and went to your car and someone came to you, someone you’ve never seen, and said, “I’ve got some good news. Your windshield looks perfect now!” how would you respond? Confused, suspicious, and even upset. Now what if this same man were to say to you, “When I pulled into the church parking lot this morning, I saw that your windshield was shattered. While you were in church, a limb fell from the tree and destroyed it. I repair glass for a living and I happened to have all my tools with me and even the exact size of your windshield. I went ahead and fixed everything and there’s no charge.” How would you feel now? Grateful! What made the good news good? The bad news. Here’s the bad news – We were stuck in sin, waiting for the wrath of God to fall on us. Here’s the good news – God sent his son Jesus to die for our sins but he rose again. When we believe in him, not only are our sins forgiven but we also have eternal life! That is the basic Content of the gospel, the good news. Today we will go a step further and try to understand the Activity of the Gospel (how the Gospel moves) in our message through Philippians titled “DEFINING GOSPEL.”
Philippians 1 5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now…7… inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel…12…the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel. 17…knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. 4:15 Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel…
Question: What makes the good news good is the bad news. Once again, the bad news is that you are dead in trespasses and sins. The good news is that Jesus came to set you free. Have you received the good news, the gospel?
Background: Last weekend we learned that the word “gospel” comes from the old Anglo-Saxon word “godspell” or “good spell” which means “good news.” Today I want to introduce to you the Greek word behind the word gospel/good news. It’s “euangelion.” It is found a couple hundred times in the New Testament in various forms and 84 times just in Paul’s letters. It was a central concept in his theology. Sometimes he used it to refer to the Content of the good news and other times to describe the Activity of the good news. There is a difference between the two. Content is what the gospel means. Activity is how the gospel moves. If you want to see Paul’s description of the Content of the gospel, turn to 1 Corinthians 15 1 “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved…3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: (Paul is not the manufacturer of the gospel) that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, (There’s the bad news) 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, (There’s the good news) 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren…” (There’s the proof of the good news and it hasn’t changed!).
Illustration: Last week thousands came by the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte and then the Capitol Rotunda in Washington DC to pay their last respects to Billy Graham. I cannot help but think about how in 1938 when he was just 20 years old, his girlfriend at the time dumped him saying, “I just don’t see any real purpose in your life yet.” I think she was wrong! He definitely had a purpose and it was to preach the unchanging gospel. He once said, “The message I preach hasn’t changed. Circumstances have changed. Problems have changed, but deep inside man has not changed, and the gospel hasn’t changed.”
Now that’s the Content of the Gospel (in a nutshell). But, there’s also the Activity of the Gospel (how the gospel moves). We see this Activity in Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Here Paul used that word “euangelion” 9 times. By the way, all of them are regarding the Activity of the Gospel. It’s as if the Philippians knew very well what Paul meant when he used the word “gospel.” He didn’t have to explain it to them. They were a gospel church.
Application: As a pastor, I hope we’re like the Philippians. We are not a contemporary church or traditional church, white church or black church, big church or small church. We are a gospel church. It is a central part of our theology and identity.
4 things we learn about the Activity of the Gospel in Paul’s letter to the Philippians:
- The Gospel is a powerful, living force
Philippians 1 3 “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you…5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now.” The Gospel here is not something passive but active, something powerful on its own. Paul didn’t create it nor did he activate it. He was called to join in. The Philippians joined in as well. The message of good news has been powerfully moving since the beginning of time. We can be oblivious to it, go against it, or we can receive it and join in. I received a letter this week from Franklin Graham which I’m sure also came to tens of thousands of people. He said something very powerful in it – “Many have said that his (Billy Graham) death ends an era, but he would be the first to say that when God’s ambassadors die in Christ, the Lord raises up others, because the preaching of the Gospel will go forward until the end of the age.”
- The Gospel is not easily received
Philippians 1:7 “because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace.” Even though the gospel is a powerful living force, it is often misunderstood and corrupted. Paul had to defend and confirm the gospel throughout his ministry. He had to defend the gospel from the legalists and then confirm it through the apostles. Although it doesn’t say it in this passage, the reason is that Satan is always trying to pervert and corrupt it.
Application: The Gospel is in the Bible but it’s not the Bible. It’s not the 10 commandments or the Beatitudes or the Golden Rule. It’s not going to Church, getting baptized, and feeling sorry for all the bad you’ve ever done. It’s not trying to be a better person, better husband, better wife, better neighbor, better citizen, better worker, and giving your time/money to help others. It’s not trying to give all your problems to God and trusting Him and praying to Him to help you. It’s not believing in God, Angels, and Satan. The gospel is believing that Jesus, the Son of God, came as promised and died for your sins, was buried, and rose again on the third day. As the pastor, it is my primary responsibility to defend and confirm this constantly.
- The Gospel steadily moves forward
Philippians 1:12 “But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel.” Rulers and religious authorities, governments and groups have all tried to stop the gospel and to shut it down. It has grown evermore and it will continue. What we may think is the end of the road will only turn out to be a bend in the road for the gospel. Case in point: Paul himself. When do you think he first heard the gospel? Not on the road to Damascus. I believe it was when he stood there guarding the clothes of those who were stoning Stephen. As Stephen lay dying, Paul began to come alive. Wow!
- The Gospel demands a certain lifestyle
Philippians 1 27 “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not in any way terrified by your adversaries.” I preached on this last week. The Gospel lifestyle is not for contentious and cowardly people. Those are the 2 no-nos’ when it comes to the gospel. The gospel requires partnership and fearlessness. There’s a higher focus.
Illustration: One of my friends posted this – “Late one rainy night, Christian author and youth worker Mike Yaconelli was driving through Nashville. He saw someone sitting on some steps with his head between his knees, and a coat pulled over his head to keep out the rain and wind. Thinking he was homeless, Mike said, “Hey, mister, you don’t have to sit here in the rain like this. We’ve got enough money to put you up in a hotel. Come on with us. We’ll provide what you need for a good night’s sleep.” The man looked up. It was Billy Graham. “It’s okay,” Graham said. “I just want to sit here for a while and pray for this city.” He had a crusade coming soon and wanted to prepare his heart.”
Invitation: The True Gospel has not changed in the past 2000 years. If you say—
- I need to be a better person– wrong gospel
- I need to turn everything overto God – wrong gospel
- I need to read the Bible and prayevery day – wrong gospel
- I need to give up all my bad habits– wrong gospel
The gospel is Jesus is God’s son who died for your sins as promised in the Bible. He was buried but rose again as promised. If you believe in him, you can have forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
If you have received the Content of the gospel, it’s time to join the Activity of the gospel. It’s time to join the Powerful, Living Force of God that is steadily moving forward changing lives.